Image of Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford


Lifetime: 1837 - 1916 Passed: ≈ 107 years ago




United Kingdom

Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford

Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale   was a British diplomat, collector and writer. Nicknamed "Barty", he was the paternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters.

Freeman-Mitford was the son of Henry Reveley Mitford (1804–1883) of Exbury House, Exbury, Hampshire, and the great-grandson of the historian William Mitford, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. While his paternal ancestors were landed gentry, whose holdings had once included Mitford Castle in Northumberland, his mother (Georgiana) Jemima was a daughter of the courtier the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham, with a noble ancestry through the earls of Beverley. His parents separated in 1840 when Redesdale was just three years old, and his mother remarried a Mr. Molyneaux.

Like his cousin Swinburne, he was named Algernon after his great-grandfather Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley.

Entering the Foreign Office in 1858, Mitford was appointed Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg. After service in the Diplomatic Corps in Shanghai, he went to Japan as second secretary to the British Legation at the time of the migration of the Japanese Seat of Power from Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo), known as the "Meiji Restoration". Mitford's memoirs recount the troubled time of the foreign settlements at Kobe over the fortnight following American Rear-Admiral Henry Bell's death, and the death of British consul Francis Gerard Mijburgh. Rededale served as secretary under Myburgh's replacement, John Frederik Lowder. There he met Ernest Satow and wrote Tales of Old Japan (1871), a book credited with making such Japanese Classics as "The Forty-seven Ronin" first known to a wide Western public. He resigned from the diplomatic service in 1873.

Following the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, in 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visit to Japan to present the Emperor Meiji with the Order of the Garter. He was asked by courtiers there about Japanese ceremonies that had disappeared since 1868.

He had persuaded Edward VII to plant Japanese knotweed at Sandringham House and it later became difficult to eradicate, according to George VI.

From 1874 to 1886, Mitford acted as secretary to HM Office of Works, involved in the lengthy restoration of the Tower of London and in landscaping parts of Hyde Park such as "The Dell". From 1887, he was a member of the Royal Commission on Civil Services. He also sat as Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon between 1892 and 1895.

According to W. S. Gilbert, Mitford served as a consultant on Japanese culture to Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan during the development of their 1885 Savoy Opera The Mikado. A traditional Japanese song hummed by Mitford to Gilbert and Sullivan during a rehearsal was used in the opera for the march accompanying the Mikado's entrance.

In 1886, Mitford inherited the substantial country estates of his first cousin twice removed, John Freeman-Mitford, 1st Earl of Redesdale. In accordance with the will he assumed by Royal licence the additional surname of Freeman. Appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire, he became a magistrate and took up farming and horse breeding. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron from 1889 to 1914. Redesdale joined the Royal Photographic Society in 1907 and became a Fellow in 1908. He was President of the Royal Photographic Society between 1910 and 1912.

He substantially rebuilt Batsford House beside Batsford in Gloucestershire in the Victorian Gothic manorial style, but at such a cost that it had to be sold within a few years of his death. It was bought by Lord Dulverton and is still owned by his descendants.

Lord Redesdale married in 1874 Lady Clementina Gertrude Helen Ogilvy (1854–1932), the daughter of David Ogilvy, 10th Earl of Airlie, by his spouse Blanche, the daughter of Edward Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley. They had five sons and four daughters.

Books by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford

Tales of Old Japan Cover image

Tales of Old Japan

Fairy Tale Mythology
Legends Supernatural Fiction Horror

Tales of Old Japan is an anthology of short stories compiled by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, Lord Redesdale, writing under the better known name of A.B. Mitford. These stories focus on various aspects of Japanese life before the Meiji Restoratio...